1 What type of damage did agricultural fields suffer?
There are several types of damage:
- Direct crop destruction by uprooting, salt poisoning, flood,
- Erosion and scouring that modifies the topography, land levelling
and the elimination of bunds (for paddy fields)
- Soil fertility losses when upper layer is washed away
- Deposition of (saline) sediment
- Salt infiltration
- Trash and debris accumulation.
2 Is the intensity of damage the same on all flooded
NO, the intensity of damage provoked by a tsunami depends on three
main characteristics at that particular location: the energy of the
flood, the type of soil coverage and vegetation, and the soil hydraulic
properties including drainage capacity.
The energy of the stream coming in and stream receding at a particular
location influences the erosion and physical destruction. The energy
is mainly related to the velocity of the stream but also to the stream
load in sediment and debris.
As a result of the high energy along the first inland stretches it
is likely that erosion is very high, however, when the wave penetrates
further inland the energy decreases (velocity diminishing) and that
results in a deposit of sediments.
The type of soil coverage in the affected fields influenced the velocity
of the water. In general, a bare soil is likely to experience high
velocity and therefore higher erosion, whilst a dense coverage and
small trees will absorb energy and reduce the velocity of the water,
dense cereals such as rice are likely to be overturned ensuring some
protection to the soil (at least for a while).
The duration of the sea water flood obviously depended on the drainage
capacity. Well drained areas were flooded for only a limited time
(several hours), while water logged areas have been under sea water
for weeks, causing contamination through infiltration of salt water.
3 What are the priorities in reclaiming affected lands?
The immediate and critical priority in the case of sea water floods
is to ensure quick drainage in order to get rid of the salt water
on the fields and surrounding water bodies and later leach out salts
that have been fixed in the soil.
The second priority is to restore the physical integrity of the fields:
the removal of debris and trash, the restoration of appropriate topographical
conditions, for paddy fields it means ensuring land levelling and
reconstruction of bunds where they have been washed way.
4 Is there always salt deposit associated with a tsunami?
YES, salt sediment deposit is almost always associated with a tsunami.
In fact, the study of this deposit allows palaeontologist to trace
similar historical events. For instance in Japan , a recent study
on 13 tsunamis which occurred between 1026 and 1933, show that the
thickness of deposit on the flooded soil may vary from 30 cm up to
1 meter depending on the run-up of the tsunami.
5 What to do with the salt sediment deposit?
Two options can be considered: immediate removal of the deposit
or integration into the existing soil profile with salt removal.
For agricultural fields only the latter is practically acceptable.
Removal of the deposit requires technical and financial means which
makes it out of reach for most farmers. Removing a layer of 10 cm
of deposit would be the equivalent to removing about 1000 m3 of
deposit per hectare, i.e. about 1500 tons. This would have to be
removed to a nearby site. Even if it was possible all of this would
have to be done with the help of costly scrapers, trucks, etc.
A more viable option is:
1) Integration in the soil profile of finer elements as after ensuring
removal of coarser elements (rocks, debris, trash,...)
2) Leaching out salts from the profile through regular watering
by rainfall and/or irrigation to get rid of salt.
Obviously, the deposit is likely to modify the texture and structure
of existing soils. That might create difficulties in the next cropping
seasons, for instance when a sandy deposit is mixed with the heavy
clay soil of paddy fields.
6 How does salt affect plant growth and what are the
Salt affects plant growth mainly through:
(a) toxicity from excessive uptake of salt substances such as sodium,
(b) reduced water uptake, known as water stress and
(c) reduction in uptake of essential nutrients particularly potassium.
Early signs of salinity damage are (a) darker leaves than the normal
color of bluish-green, (b) smaller leaves and (c) stems with shorter
spaces between leaf nodes. When the problem gets more serious, leaves
(a) become yellow (chlorotic) and (b) are affected by "burning"
(firing, browning) and the death of leaf edges.
7 What are the priority crops for relief and rehabilitation?
As a starting point FAO staff has worked with national agriculture
staff to develop a tentative cropping calendar and priority crops
for relief and rehabilitation (provide link to the cropping calendar).
Actual distribution of the seed depends on needs assessments and time
of planting will need to take into account the salinity issue.
8 What specific crops would work best in the flooded,
salt-water saturated soils?
As short cycle crops in substitution of potatoes we may suggest
to grow one of the following vegetable crops.
Vegetable species with certain degree of tolerance to salinity:
Pumpkin: Cucurbita moschata (Duchesne) More adapted
to high temperatures and wet tropics than Cucurbita maxima
Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), Bitter gourd
(Momordica charantia), Snake gourd (Trichosanthes cucumerina)
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Kale ( Brassica oleracea var alboglabra)
Swiss Chard ( Beta vulgaris L. var cicla), Spinach (Spinacia
Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum).
The cultivars should be adapted to the local consumers preference
and also availability of seeds. Do check soil salinity before starting
the next crop season.
9 How can we assess the damage to livestock?
It is important to include all types of farm animals (poultry, sheep,
goats, pigs, cattle and buffalo) in any assessment. Also, there
are different types of production systems that need to be taken
into account. Many rural/coastal households will have kept a few
'backyard' livestock but there may also have been more commercial
or semi-commercial enterprises affected. Animal shelters, including
any stored feed, will have been destroyed by the direct impact of
the Tsunami. There might also be indirect consequences that need
to be taken into account such as the loss of local support services
(extension and veterinary services) feed storage and milling, AI
centres and product processing facilities i.e. milk collection centres.
There might also be longer-term damage to the primary source of
feed supplies due to salination etc. which would need to be assessed.
The information required from assessments to assist the rehabilitation
programme would include:
the number and type of households/enterprises keeping
livestock that were affected
an estimation of the loss animals and feed supplies
an estimation of economic production losses
damage to buildings and infrastructure
the current situation with regard to shelter, feed
supply, health of the remaining animals, and any animal welfare
an assessment of the impact on ancillary goods and
10 What types of animals have been affected?
All animals or birds that were housed, tethered or caged in the affected
areas will have been lost. The main casualties were poultry, pigs,
goats, sheep and, to a lesser extent cattle and buffaloes.
11 How important are domestic farm animals for the livelihoods
in the affected areas?
For many of the coastal communities, keeping livestock makes an important
contribution to the household economy. Livestock are important converters
of waste products from the artesian fishing industry into cash and
assets. Likewise, any surplus coconuts found in coastal areas are
an important feed source that encourage people to keep animals.
12 What can be done to rehabilitate households that have
lost animals and infrastructure?
Rehabilitation of the livestock sector is likely to include:
Provision of appropriate materials to reconstruct
shelters, feed stores etc, that have been destroyed. There might
be an opportunity to improve the design and construction of these
Restocking can be supported once suitable shelter is
available. It is important that any restocking introduces animals/birds
that are appropriate and well-adapted to the particular production
system. In most cases, it is expected that animals/birds for restocking
will be available from the hinterland (areas inland from the coast)
and it is unlikely that any major importation of stock will be required.
Provision of adequate feed supplies for the remaining
and reintroduced animals. Immediate needs for compound (ready mixed
and balanced rations) is probably available nationally and it can
be procured locally. It is important that any support involves,
and not disrupts, the private sector supply chain. There may also
be longer-term requirements in terms of seeds, and fertilizer to
re-establish pastures and fodder crops.
Local veterinary services might need material assistance
to combat the outbreak of infectious diseases, especially zoonoses
- those diseases that can affect humans.
13 If we want to help with restocking - where should
we get animals and what sort should we look for?
As only parts of countries are affected, it is recommended to buy
the animals locally, in order to minimize the risks of importing diseases
and to make sure the animals are well-adjusted to the local environment.
Wherever possible, purchased animals should be young breeding stock,
well grown for their age, physically inspected for signs of illness
or abnormalities, provided with prophylactic cover (deworming, vaccination,
antibiotics) based on local veterinary advice, and any stress in transportation
should be kept to a minimum.
14 If many of the resorts and more urban towns have
to be rebuilt - should the keeping of urban and peri-urban animals
Keeping farm animals in urban areas poses both environmental and
human health risks and the practice should not be encouraged. Any
rebuilding of existing or new towns should take the opportunity
to explore introducing by-laws that either restrict or prohibit
keeping farm livestock in urban environments.
It is also important to the rapid spread of zoonotic diseases. In
peri urban areas it depends on the control measures that could be
established for control of zoonotic diseases, on the importance of
animal production for urban consumption and for small holders livelihoods.
15 What can be done for veterinary public health?
The animal health service and in particular the Official Veterinary
Public Health authorities should be restored immediately to provide
the minimum basis for rational control of zoonoses and food borne
diseases. In addition, infrastructure such as safe water supplies,
abattoirs, and markets must be rehabilitated. Measures to strengthen
sanitation infrastructure and access to veterinary and medical care
should be implemented immediately.
16 What general measures could be applied to control
Rehabilitation of Animal Health Services:
Firstly it is important to rehabilitate Veterinary Services as well
as livestock infrastructure in order to improve animal disease surveillance,
early warning and early reaction systems to prevent the spread of
animal diseases. Diseases known to be endemic in the tsunami affected
Poultry: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Newcastle
Pigs: Classical swine Fever, FMD, Nipah virus, Japanese
Sheep and goats: PPR, pasteurellosis
Cattle: PPR (in India ), Hemorrhagic septicaemia and
They should be monitored and where appropriate animal disease control
procedures should be implemented to curb the spread of transboundary
and other animal diseases.In specific instances, restocking should
be considered after going through the necessary quarantine period.
Animal Health Care Capacities (private):
Support to animal health care capacities will mainly involve
the private sector. Animal disease control for restocking and maintaining
animals will address the main following activities:
Vaccination against i)Poultry: Newcastle virus Disease,
b)Pigs: Classical swine fever and Pasteurellosis c) Small ruminants:
PPR, pasteurellosis and clostridial diseases, d) Cattle: PPR (in
India ), Hemorrhagic septicaemia, clostridial diseases and anthrax
Anthelmintic treatment campaigns
Adequate supplies of vital veterinary medicines, food and water, can
make the difference between life and death for animals in the aftermath
of the disaster.
17 Is there a human health risk if there are animal
disease outbreaks? Is there a specific risk for the spread of Avian
Yes, there is always a risk of spread of infectious and parasitic
diseases, including zoonotic diseases (common to animals and humans)
such as rabies and Avian Influenza.
Concerning Avian Influenza, there have been no confirmed outbreaks
of this disease associated with the tsunami crisis. However, in
view of the prevailing circumstances with the rapid movement of
poultry associated with people movement, the lack of sanitation
and housing and the breakdown of surveillance systems there is a
high potential of risk for outbreaks of this disease in the first
weeks after the tsunami.
The immediate reestablishment of animal disease surveillance through
the rehabilitation of the Veterinary Services, will allow early detection
and early reaction to potential outbreaks of avian influenza. This
will permit the adoption of counter epizootic measures such as vaccination
and disease awareness campaigns to prevent the spread of avian influenza
18 Is it true that there have been outbreaks of rabies?
What can be done to control this disease from spreading?
Rabies is endemic in the region affected by the tsunami. An increase
in stray animals directly increases the chance of human to animal
contact. Thus there is more possibility of dog bites with the consequence
of an increase in rabies incidences. The immediate control of dog
movements and the vaccination and identification of dogs and awareness
campaign on preventive measures against rabies is highly recommended.
Dog bites should be immediately reported to the veterinary and medical
services for prompt attention. Suspected dogs should be quarantined
for a minimum of 10 days, under the proper veterinary observation.
The needs of individual households and communities
will vary. It is important that any support is targeted at what
they really need and want, and not necessarily what they will accept
if offered. A menu of appropriate interventions should be available
from which beneficiaries can choose which would best suit their
Direct or in-direct (credit) assistance will also be
required to re-establish the commercial and semi-commercial enterprises
that supply the urban and tourist markets.
19 Where should we go for more information and assistance?
FAO Representatives in Sri Lanka , India , Thailand , Indonesia
and Myanmar will be able to provide advice and assistance. Specialised
staff in FAO Headquarters and in its Regional Office in Bangkok
will also help wherever possible.